Rosie: A feminist childhood

Saturday, 18th July 2009 at 16:50 UTC Leave a comment

Guest blogging returns with an offering from Rosie Venner, who some of you will know for her work at Student Christian Movement. This last year they’ve been following the theme of “Liberating Gender”, and so I asked her to write something, so here it is…

Having spent a year at work thinking about gender, I’ve found myself looking back at my childhood. I grew up in a picturesque rural village, a lovely place, but with very traditional ideas about gender roles. I always felt slightly out of place, but happily so. I was proud that my mum had kept her own name when she got married, that my dad looked after us at home and baked amazing bread, and that neither of them worried when I dressed my little brother up in pink polka-dot shorts.

I spent a summer, aged around 8, wanting to be a boy. There’s a photo of me, green shorts, blue rugby top, blonde hair pushed up under a cap, scuffed knees. I asked people to call me Robert, and was delighted when they did. My parents didn’t bat an eyelid.

My brother came home one day with a picture he had drawn of my mother. At the bottom he had written “my mum hoovers the carpet and cooks my tea”. We laughed and put it up in the kitchen, where it stayed for years. But it disturbed me too, because it was not my mum, but my dad, who did these things. My brother had copied the sentence from a blackboard.

I went along to the Young Farmers’ Club but was outraged that while the boys went off on trips to farms to learn how to judge livestock, the girls were expected to learn flower-arranging. I was the only girl in the after-school hockey club, and couldn’t work out why my teacher thought this so unusual that she mentioned it in my school report.

As a young teenager I had what I called my feminist t-shirts – one said ‘What’s so vital about statistics’ and the other had a picture of an angry girl saying ‘Georgie Porgie pudding and pie… don’t even think about it’. I had to explain them to blank faces at secondary school. No-one wanted to call themselves a feminist and no-one had heard of Greenham Common or the Suffragettes.

If I have children one day will I be able to bring them up like this? Will I need to? It shouldn’t still be going against the grain, but I fear it would be. A young girl I know, aged 8, checks the back of food packets to see how many calories she is eating. She is already being taught by society to hate her body. It scares me. I don’t want her childhood to be one of fear. I am thankful to my parents for their sensible feminist parenting. I think I’m only just realising now how important it was.

T’s and C’s: You send me the post or a link to it, and if I decide to include it, I copy and paste it across to my blog. Please supply a name to be posted under (pseudonyms are fine), or state a desire for anonymity, and tell me whether or not to link back to an original post/your blog. Posts can be either freshly written or previously published, must be substantially your own work, and broadly fit the Feminism/Gender theme.

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Entry filed under: Children, Gender, Guest, Women.

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